Javon Jackson’s resume is nothing short of impressive. Growing up in Denver, CO, his earliest influences included Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt. After briefly attending the University of Denver, he then transferred to Berklee College of Music where he met Donald Brown, the pianist for Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. After hearing Jackson at a sit-in session in New York, Blakey offered him the tenor sax position with the Jazz Messengers. Thus began Jackson’s professional career, which has led to an impressive discography of over 100 recordings.
In this album, Jackson states that his goal was simply, "to make my audience feel the way I feel when I’m playing with this band.... we’re having a great time!" The album definitely gives off that vibe, and with the cast of musicians in this group, it’s no wonder. The tracks groove with a mix of jazz, funk and soul, and while Now features tunes recorded by artists such as Roberta Flack, Kenny Garrett and James Brown, Jackson also contributes three originals to the mix with "In the Sticks", "South Side Eddie", and "Richard’s R.A.P". Throughout the album, the musicianship is superb, the groove stays in the pocket and there’s a healthy dose of soul. It’s old school funk with a few new twists.
The album opens with the original "In the Sticks", which is Jackson’s ode to the countryside. Jackson plays a repeated line over a slow, heavy funk beat, while David Gilmore adds complimenting guitar licks. The group’s sound on the whole is very full, especially with the addition of Dr. Lonnie Smith’s organ. The groove continues as Jackson takes his solo, playing off his original line, sometimes sounding like bebop, sometimes like blues, sometimes like funk. He leads into Dr. Smith’s solo, which maintains the same cool, funky feeling. Gilmore takes the third solo, giving it a more bluesy feeling
In "Love Calls", Jackson brings in vocalist Lisa Fischer, whose smooth, smoky voice blends with the guitar and organ so perfectly it gives you goosebumps. Jackson plays interludes in the same manner. The intensity of Fischer’s voice builds throughout the ballad, ending in Jackson’s repeating interlude.
The album rounds out with a little James Brown as Fischer comes back on "Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose". Greg Hutchinson and Kenny Davis seem to enjoy their driving, funky backbeat, and Gilmore gives up a phenomenally funky solo. Jackson keeps with his same cool, funky sound, never playing more than he has to, but making every note count. Fischer’s vocal lines punctuate the groove and the effects used make the overall sound all the more dramatic.
While it hardly needs saying, this is most definitely an album worth checking out. If you’ve heard any of Jackson’s previous work, you will not likely be disappointed. If you’ve yet to experience his playing, this would probably be a good place to start. The album is available for download at www.palmetto-records.com and there are samples on Jackson’s myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/javonjackson